Bioshock 2 Q&A with the Developers


Return to Rapture!

We recently had a chance to be part of a group discussion with the developers of Bioshock 2, who answered our questions about their highly anticipated shooter. The developers taking part of the discussion were:

Jordan Thomas – Creative Director, 2K Marin
Zak McClendon – Lead Designer, 2K Marin
Hogarth De La Plante – Lead Environment Artist, 2K Marin
Mat Tremblay – MP Art Director, Digital Extremes
Jesse Attard – MP Lead Programmer, Digital Extremes

What can you tell us about the story of Bioshock 2?
Bioshock 2 takes place approximately 10 years after the events of the original BioShock.  The halls of Rapture once again echo with sins of the past.  Along the Atlanic coastline, a monster has been snatching little girls and bringing them back to the undersea city.  Platers step into the boots of the most iconic denizen of Rapture, the Big Daddy, as they travel through the decrepit and beautiful fallen city, chasing an unseen foe in search of answers and their own survival.

The player dons the suit of a Big Daddy, but he isn’t the lumbering hulk as in the previous game.   You play as a prototype Big Daddy — the first one that was successfully created.  This prototype is faster and more agile and has the ability to switch weapons and use plasmids.

The prototype Big Daddy maintains his free will, which allows you to take part in moral choices throughout Rapture.  These choices (such as your interaction with Little Sisters) influence which of the multiple endings you will receive.  Adopting Little Sisters and allowing them to gather Adam is a player choice, and the Littler Sisters trust you and look to you for protection.  What you do with that trust is up to you.

Can you tell us the general overview of the new multiplayer mode?
The setting for the multiplayer in Bioshock 2 is a prequel that expands the origins of the Bioshock fiction.  It is set during the fall of Rapture and players assume the role of a Plasmid test subject for Sinclair Solutions, a premier provider of Plasmids and Tonics in the underwater city of Rapture.  Players will need to use all of the elements of the Bioshock toolset to survive, as the full depth of the Bioshock experience is refined and transformed into a unique multiplayer experience.

New multiplayer “prequel” modes

What was the biggest challenge in making Bioshock 2?
It’s that Bioshock 1 was so well received (laughs).  We had to build a team from scratch, which was mentally challenging and going up against our own expectiations. It is odd and humbled to be working on a game that everyone is enthusiastic about.

Was it difficult to make changes and expand without losing the feeling of the first game?
Yes. Bioshock has a detailed ethos. Lots that was said and adding new history into that canon was certainly a challenge. The writing team in general had to become very familiar with the original (Bioshock 1) script in order to maintain true to the story.

What was the most difficult technological achievement?
Definitely the integration of multiplayer. Digital Extremes took much of the brunt of that challenge. We’ve made significant upgrades to the AI and facial animation, but the biggie was the inclusion of a multiplayer component.

Bioshock 1 had a delayed release on the PS3 and the general concensus is that version is the “weakest link”. Did this pose any issues during development?
It is difficult to develop for three platforms at the same time. Our goal was that the experience would be the same on all three platforms (PS3, 360, and PC) so that we didn’t reward or punish any particular audience for choosing their platform.

The release of Bioshock 2 was delayed until 2010. What do gamers get for having to wait these extra months?
Generally when release dates slip the developers need time to implement extra features. In our case the extra time was used to focus on balance and polish rather than new features. We wanted the smoothest onramp for our new users, so we polished everything to a high sheen. We did add 4 new game modes in that time, however.

The world of Bioshock was obviously influenced by Ayn Rand.   Are there any other influences?
One obvious literary influence was Orwell, relating to the dangers of an all-consuming state. That said, the other influences are non-fiction, such as David Pierce’s ideology to eradicate suffering from the planet.

Because of these literary influences, do you see video games as a way to experience literature?
The term “literature” is corrupt when applying to video games. A player can get a taste of philosophy or Classic Classics which is pretty much worn on their sleeves. The demand for mature themes follows naturally to mature influences and influences players on an intellectual level. Mature games such as these are not the ideal way to experience these complex ideas, but it does offer the way to ask interesting questions.